The very serious man has stopped in Denmark’s version of Lowe’s, looking for rope. He’s being particular about the strength, as one must be when choosing the right rope for the right job. He’s only got one question of clerk.
“Do you know how to tie a noose?”
The employee thinks nothing of it, demonstrating as he ties it and asks about the weight it will need to support. The answer, “92 kilos” takes him aback. Not that he doesn’t finish the knot. This is Scandinavia, after all.
“Game of Thrones” favorite Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is that suicidal man, an insurance claims investigator with a loving wife (Tuva Novotny of “Annihilation”), interesting work and seemingly a good life. But when we meet him, he’s giving his “When you watch this, I will be dead” video testimonial. Max is ending it all.
“Exit Plan” is a quietly chilling, sometimes moving Danish film about “a beautiful ending,” Max’s desire to end his life on his own terms, and the resort (apparently in Norway) that can allow this to happen.
We see the effort wife Lærke puts into being cheerful around him, and we hear the digital assistant that reminds him it’s time to do his twice-daily “practice rhyme.” It’s about clams.
He hasn’t been to work in a while, and long before the latest cat scan, we can guess what’s going on with him. He’s depressed. And that brain teaser? It’s to keep him sharp as the tumor grows inside his head.
Max’s attempts at doing himself in are not played by laughs even as they don’t come off. It’s hard when there are no firearms present, no quick poisons, and what you’re not good at knots.
But there’s this place, the Hotel Aurora, in the forested mountains, a veritable Bond villain’s lair of a resort where they guarantee you “a satisfactory goodbye.”
The video pitch from the place promises “a painless injection set to the song that best represents your life.”
For a 90 minute drama, with thriller elements, that borders on profound. What song would you want to exit this world to?
The film splits its time between Max’s time at the hotel, and flashbacks that show how he got there.
Other patients (Lorraine Hilton, Robert Aramayo) chat with him, even if Ari (Aramayo, also from “Game of Thrones”), his arms covered in half-healed razor blade cuts, wonders “What’s we supposed to talk about here?”
“Maybe not the future.”
The second feature by Jonas Alexander Arnby (script by Rasmus Birch) is serene, almost sterile but generally thoughtful right up until it dips into somber yet nightmarish melodrama.
And dressing the patients at the hotel in striped concentration camp pajamas seems a tad too on-the-nose.
“Exit Plan” doesn’t achieve the lovesick ache one wishes for it, the sad lament of what is being surrendered to ensure that “she” has “closure,” and only good memories of you to carry with her.
But Coster-Waldau, speaking his native Danish (and English), makes the most of this daunting role, capturing the deflating depression, allowing room for doubts about this one last “my own terms” choice.
The film manages to be a meditative essay on death and dying and love, even if the chill never quite wears off.
MPAA Rating: unrated, adult subject matter
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Ashfield, Tuva Novotny, Robert Aramayo
Credits: Directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby, script by Rasmus Birch. A Screen Media release.
Running time: 1:29